Cowboys - 'Skins Preview & Prediction

The Cowboys are overwhelming favorites over the old and dysfunctional Redskins, who would love nothing more than to spoil the start of what Dallas hopes will be a dream season with an emotional win in their first game under new coach Mike Shanahan.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 9/12/10
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth)

PREDICTION: Cowboys 23-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cowboys are overwhelming favorites over the old and dysfunctional Redskins, who would love nothing more than to spoil the start of what Dallas hopes will be a dream season with an emotional win in their first game under new coach Mike Shanahan. The Cowboys need to match the Redskins' emotion but also play within themselves. They must protect quarterback Tony Romo with their patchwork offensive line. Running the ball needs to be a priority, but the Cowboys also need to make big plays down the field to their game-breaking receivers.

FAST FACTS: Dallas' 59 wins over Washington are the most victories over any other team in the league. ... WR Santana Moss has 43 catches in the past six games against Cowboys.

INSIDE THE DALLAS CAMP: It all starts now for the Cowboys and their quest for the ultimate prize -- not just going to the Super Bowl but winning the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

"Our fans deserve that," team owner Jerry Jones said. "But it's a goal, it's an inspiration and it's one that would be a dream."

Jones' dream has undoubtedly put pressure on his team and coach as the Cowboys open the regular season at the Redskins on Sunday.

Everything will be judged on whether they are playing Super Bowl caliber football.

It will be that way from the outset.

So one year after getting the so-called gorilla off his back for winning his first playoff game as a coach, Wade Phillips is now carrying King Kong.

Phillips said it's just part of the job.

But a very large primate still lurks.

"It's a gorilla on your back if you're a head coach in the NFL," Phillips said. "That's the way it is. There's not a comfort level for any coach, I don't think. Maybe the guy who won the Super Bowl last year. ... But people forget.

Everybody forgets. It's a year-to-year job." Phillips is sure the questions will return as soon as the Cowboys lose a game, but he is not going to worry about any of that.

"That will happen again this year," Phillips said. "If we lose one, that will come up."

Phillips can handle the pressure because he says he has improved as a coach over the years and is a much better coach than he was when he took the Cowboys' job in 2007.

Phillips said that showed in the staff changes he made last season and how he managed the team down the stretch and into the playoffs. He said he is ready to take the next step.

"That's what we're trying to do with this football team," Phillips said. "We have a lot of starters back and we had success, but it doesn't guarantee anything.

"It's a new team every year. How they meld together, how they play together, how they execute together and the schedule has a lot to do with it."

And for those concerned about the Cowboys' struggles in the preseason, Phillips said this is a new season and the team has already amped up their emotions.

The flip has been switched and there is no more holding back.

PERSONNEL NEWS: WR Miles Austin signed a six-year contract extension worth $54 million. He will get $18 million in guaranteed money and a base salary of $17 million in 2010.

--OT Marc Colombo didn't practice on Thursday and now remains doubtful to play against the Redskins on Sunday. He is still rehabbing a knee injury from training camp. If he doesn't practice on Friday he will not play. Alex Barron will start in his place.

--OG Kyle Kosier didn't practice Thursday. He remains sidelined with a sprained knee. He will likely miss the first two games of the season. Montrae Holland will start in his place.

--RB Felix Jones will be the team's primary kickoff returner against the Redskins Sunday.

--WR Dez Bryant will be the team's primary punt returner in what will be the NFL debut of the rookie top pick.

--RB Tashard Choice will reprise his 2009 role as the third down back on passing downs.

PREDICTION: Cowboys 23-17

CowboysHQ Top Stories